Nationwide Children HospitalMedulloblastoma usually discovered in the cerebellum area of the brain is the most common tumor developed in childhood. Due to advancement in treatment, increase in the 5-year survival to almost 70 percent has been seen. A recent research now suggests the use of modified measles virus to have potential as the new treatment for medulloblastoma.

Although treatment for this childhood brain tumor is available, it yet includes invasive surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy. Hence, there seems to be an urgent requirement of alternative therapeutic approaches. Tumor cells in cases of adult brain tumors have already been destroyed by vaccine strains of measles virus. The Edmonston strain, a vaccine strain of measles enters the susceptible cells by targeting the cell surface receptor CD46.

“This preference most likely explains the efficacy of Edmonston strains in killing tumor cells, given the high level of expression of CD46 in multiple tumor types. It is also the reason we chose to explore a modified Edmonston’s strain of measles virus for use in medulloblastoma,” explainedCorey Raffel, MD, PhD, lead authors, chief of Neurosurgery at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and a faculty member of The Ohio State University College of Medicine.

The research uncovers that established medulloblastoma cell lines express the measles receptor CD46 with medulloblastoma specimens removed from patients having high CD46 expression levels. Once the measles receptor was registered, the investigators then aimed to treat the medulloblastoma cell lines by employing the modified measles virus. Positive results were displayed within 72 hours, as all cells lines showed considerable tumor cell death.

Dr. Raffel quoted, “Other oncolytic viruses have been explored as possible treatment modalities for medulloblastoma. The fact that all of the surgical medulloblastoma specimens that we examined expressed the measles virus receptor leads us to believe that measles virus may have some advantages over other viruses.”

An experiment was also conducted on mouse models of medulloblastoma to determine the use of modified measles virus. The investigators examined the consequences for 10 days. It appeared that while two animals were completely treated for tumor, the third one suffered with only a very small amount of residual tumor. Out of a total of eleven mice eight of them were completely treated of the primary tumor.

Dr. Raffel said, “Our research demonstrates that a modified measles virus has therapeutic potential in the treatment of intracerebral medulloblastoma. These results provide initial data to be pursued with additional studies toward the goal of using the virus in a clinical trial for the treatment of medulloblastoma. Measles virus therapy could be applied to the tumor bed following surgical resection to target microscopic residual disease. This approach could potentially alleviate the need for radiation and chemotherapy.”

The scientists share that the measles virus may be utilized to treat tumors spreading to the cerebral spinal fluid. They believe that with tumor cells entering the cerebral spinal fluid and the subarachnoid space, present therapy is widely ineffective. Further research will be conducted to determine the accurate dose schedule for injection of the virus. The scientists also believe that modifications of the virus might ascertain more effective treatment of the tumor.

The research is published in Neuro-Oncology.